Apple’s Mac OS X Dock vs. Microsoft Windows Taskbar

“Those of you who use Windows on a regular basis are undoubtedly very familiar with the taskbar that has been a part of the operating system since Windows 95. It has a variety of components, and although we’ve been able to work with it for quite some time, it’s by no means a perfect representation of what a taskbar should be. For example, if you have an abundance of open items sitting on your taskbar, they can begin to become crammed together, and when this happens, the buttons for each item start to shrink, and this causes any of the useful information that may have been contained within to become just another glob of goop on your taskbar,” Brandon Watts writes for OSWeekly.

Watts writes, “Windows XP does contain a feature called taskbar grouping that can group the taskbar buttons of several windows from the same application into one button, and this helps to some extent, but even with this approach, you’re still not getting the whole picture at a glance.”

Watts writes, “Aside from the taskbar, the dock presents open applications and frequently used programs in its own unique way. When you think of the dock, you probably think of OS X, however, the dock has been around longer than Apple’s latest versions of its operating system; and you can see this by looking at NeXTSTEP and OPENSTEP. Apple’s version is so memorable because they redefined what a dock was, and they then launched it into the mainstream. Computer users suddenly realized that the Windows taskbar isn’t the only solution, and experimentation with this newfangled dock started to take place.”

Watts writes, “Personally, I prefer the dock to the Windows taskbar, and it’s one of the things that really drew me to OS X… it’s nice to look down at the dock and see, in a graphical way, how many e-mail messages and RSS feed entries are available for me to read. Instead of having to open the applications to see this information, it’s already right in front of my face, so I know what to expect. In certain cases, when an application is working on something, you’ll even see a graphical progress bar. It’s also nice to see a snapshot of the content of a window when you minimize it to this dock.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We’d prefer a root canal to the Windows taskbar. We’re interested to hear your ideas on how to make the Mac OS X Dock even better and also how you use your Dock. For example, we run our Mac OS X Docks as small as possible, always visible, on the bottom, with magnification disabled (the text rollovers and our grouping and memories work for us to quickly locate what we need. The magnification, while pretty, tends to slow us down since hitting a moving target isn’t as efficient as a stationary one.) We also place folders and hard drive icons in the right side of the Dock on all of our Macs; why Apple doesn’t ship Macs with the hard drive already in the Dock by default is beyond us. We also use Dock separators; Apple should give us something like them as a built-in option. How do you use your Dock?


  1. Why mess with perfection? We are already decades ahead of the competition.

    I prefer hidden with magnification and a folder containing aliases to frequently visited places and apps. but I also use You Control to access many things quickly (kind of replaces the Apple Menu from OS9.

  2. I use Mac OS X and Windows (unfortunately). The dock is far more elegant. The only thing worth mentioning about the task bar is the start menu. For all the things about windows I hate, I love the start menu and having quick access to all my applications.

    You can simulate this on the dock by dragging an alias of the applications folder to the dock. Now the only drawback is the short delay before it opens. So the dock is better in nearly every way aside from the before mentioned delay.

  3. I don’t put the dock at the bottom because I need as much display of Word, or Excel, documents as possible. Putting hte dock at the bottom detracts from the document.

    I have the dock placed on the left without magnification.

  4. The only plus the Taskbar has over the Dock, I suppose, is the ability to launch applications from it via keyboard shortcuts. For example, Ctrl+1 launches the first app in the taskbar.

    If there is a way to do this in the Dock, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!


  5. I use my Dock like this…

    I have ONLY open apps in my dock. Since I use Quicksilver I don’t need to keep shortcuts to frequently used apps. I also make it as small as possible with NO magnification and keep it in the right hand corner of my screen.

  6. Where the Dock excels is muscle memory. I always know that Mail, Address, Book, Safari, and iChat are on the left side, and Transmit, BBEdit and any non-docked app is on the right, then I can begin moving towards my target without knowing exactly where it is yet.

    Compare that with the Windows Taskbar.. one must carefully read each item to know what is it.

  7. Bobby: I actually use Windows all the time as well, and find that the “Start” window is the worst abomination Microsoft has inflicted on the world. Magnified by the fact that on Linux, KDE and Gnome both saw fit to copy it!

    Given that I usually only use a subset of the applications on my computer 99% of the time, the Dock + Spotlight gives me the best way to start applications. On Windows I emulate this as best as possible by having applications “quick linked” next to the start bar and Google Desktop search for the Spotlight replacement.

  8. I place the dock on the right, hidden, with no magnification. This works well almost all the time, except when mousing near the right edge of the screen when accessing a palette in photoshop for example.

  9. Heh. Some people never get used to the Dock. My wife still can’t stand it, after nearly 5 years of Mac use. She shrinks it to miniscule size and hides it on the right where she’ll never accidentally activate it. She uses DragThing to put the trash can on the desktop.

    Me? I just want to know when the ability to pin the Dock to a corner is going to become official. Every new Mac I buy, I install TinkerTool just to do one thing — put the Dock on the bottom and pin it to the lower-right corner of the screen. Then I hide it. It’s perfect this way! The trash can is exactly where I’d expect it to be, but only when I want to see it.

  10. Bottom. Hidden. Medium size. Magnification is on, but only so that it gives a subtle visual feedback. Not so much that it creates a moving target.

    It wouldn’t bother me if the hard drives were shown in the dock, but unlike MDN, I don’t have them there. I have the apps folder and utility folder, but I don’t really uset hose any more. If I want Grab, I just type command-space grab, cursor down and hit return.

    As for the start menu being faster, well yes, to start with, but locating anything in it is a pain, and sometimes windows will not show you everything, but will hide things it thinks you’re no longer interested in behind a chevron.

    OS-X’s insistence on a flat structure for the apps folder (except where it twists ther rules, a la iWork), is about the only thing I don’t like. My way around it was to have a structured nested set of folders containing aliases of my apps and utilities (i.e. Final Cut, Quicktime etc under ‘video’ etc).

    But, as I said, that’s redundant with spotlight.

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